Gottman: Date 3

Written by Katie Mitchell, M.A., Certified Sex Therapist

If you are just tuning into this new blog series, I highly suggest going back to read/complete the first date topic, trust and commitment, and the second date topic, conflict.  As a recap, Eight Dates is a date guide about 8 different beneficial conversations that help couples to connect and gain a better understanding of one another.  Over the next couple of months, I will be completing overviews of each date conversation.  If you finding this resonating with you, I highly suggest purchasing the book here and completing each of the date conversations with your significant other.  If you have been following along each week, week 3 does not have corresponding worksheets that go with it.

This week we are on to date number three: SEX.  It is very important to bring an open mind to this conversation.  The best time to have this conversation is NOT during a sexual experience, but carved out date time (outside of a sexual experience).  Remember to be inquisitive of your partner’s responses!  During this date, you will each take turns asking each other open-ended questions about your shared sex life.  If you have difficult time thinking of these, I highly suggest either getting the Eight Dates book or downloading the free Gottman Card Decks app on your phone to go through the open-ended sex questions for a man and woman!  This could easily be simple questions like, “What turns you on?” Or, more complex questions, such as, “Think about all the times we’ve had sex.  What are some of your favorites?  What about that time made it your favorite?”  Take the time to discuss other sexual topics, such as: what you each like about sex; initiation; how often you think about sex; satisfaction of frequency level; fantasies; masturbation; how you each say yes and no to sex; keeping sex passionate; and prerequisites for sex (what emotionally or physically needs to be present or taken care of in order to want sex).

Here are some helpful ideas to help this conversation go smoothly: Steer clear of using the word but when talking to one another, since it negates what comes before it (and thus your partner’s experience).  Instead, try an attitude of validating your partner’s perspective about your shared sex life and then add to it, using the word AND (in place of but).  Be specific as you can with one another.  Giving each other vague responses, will only lead to confusion or assumptions being made – neither of which are great when discussing your shared sexual experience.  If you are not sure what your partner means, supportively ask questions to gain more clarity.  Lastly, do not compare your partner sexually to other previous partners!

As a couples’ counselor I love that this chapter takes the time to give so much information on the different aspects of sex that should be discussed within this conversation.  The Gottmans’ and the Abrams’ address the “is our sex life normal?” thought that so many couples preoccupy themselves with.  They clearly define that what works for you and your partner, is what is normal!  “Normal is whatever you both are comfortable with, and normal will change often throughout the life of your relationship – as you have children, as you age, as you deal with medical issues.”  I also loved that the Gottmans’ and Abrams’ take the time to discuss the recent correlational data of Nothrup, Schwartz, and Witte for couples who report having a GREAT sex life.  An extensive study of love and sex, completed with 70,000 participants, found that couples who have a great sex life also (page 98-99):

-   Say “I love you” to their partners every day, and mean it

-   Buy one another surprise romantic gifts

-   Compliment their partner often

-   Have romantic vacations

-   Give one another back rubs

-   Kiss one another passionately for no reason at all

-   Show affection publicly (holding hands, caress, kiss)

-   Cuddle with one another every day

-   Have a romantic date once a week that may include dressing up, dinner out, massage, and love making

-   Make sex a priority and talk to one another about sex comfortably

-   Are open to a variety of sexual activities

-   Turn towards bids for emotional connection

As a reminder, this book gives lots of amazing recommendations for those who have the ability to go somewhere for a date, but also for those who need to complete this date at home!  If going out for this date, make it as romantic as possible.  Do the two of you have a favorite romantic and intimate restaurant?  Go there!  Take the time to dress up for yourselves and one another!  If needing to do this date at home, the Gottmans’ and Abrams’ recommend that you make arrangements to have space for yourselves and have this conversation naked in bed, if possible (FYI: sex is not a requirement at the end of this conversation). 

As always, if you and your partner struggle to communicate in an open manner, the first few chapters of Eight Dates also include helpful information on putting your feelings into words; asking open-ended questions; making exploratory statements; and expressing tolerance, empathy, and understanding.  I highly recommend reading through this material as a refresher for even those who consider themselves the best communicators!

I hope reading this motivates you and your partner to carve out a date night to discuss SEX!  However, if sex is a topic that you and your partner struggle to discuss, reach out to our office today and we will get you set up with a counselor who can help the two of you have this conversation.  The Gottmans’ correlational data has shown that men who kiss their wives before leaving for work live five years longer and earned 20 percent more than men who left without a peck goodbye, so make this conversation a matter of life-and-death (or check) and get into our office today!